Day Twenty: Build and Bike - Yellow Springs

 As a result of some route reorganizing, we made the day into Yellow Springs, OH a Build and Bike day. We woke at 0500 to build with HFH of Columbus, and then cycled the 52 miles to Yellow Springs.

The build went very well. Habitat of Columbus is completing a nine house project north of downtown, and we were able to help with finishing work. I did touch-up interior paint work for an entire house.

Today was our first flat ride. I ride with Jane and Ellen (Jane's mother) to our lunch stop at a Wal-Mart, battling on and off rain, cool weather, and headwinds. Keith (Jane's father) met us at lunch, and we time-trialled into town. I was holding 26 MPH on the flats, pulling Keith along behind me!


Day Nineteen: Driving to Columbus, the City of Driving

Today was an 82 mile day. I was in the van, running various errands, and ended up driving the route three times over.

Last night, Sarah and Emily approached me with bicycle issues. Sarah's right pedal thread was stripped, and Emily's rear derailleur broke following aluminum metal fatigue. As a result, I had to make a bike shop run, dropping the trailer at the side of Ohio SR 16 and driving to Columbus.

Jane's parents and maternal grandparents met us in Columbus, after the day of riding. Her grandfather was an aerospace engineer, and her grandmother was a reference librarian. They're wonderful people, and I'm glad I finally got to meet them. Keith and Ellen (Jane's parents) will be riding with us for the next two days.

I went to bed around 2000. It seemed like the thing to do. I've been pushing myself to the point of starvation, dehydration, and sleep deprivation.


Day Eighteen: Happy Birthday, Jane!

Today was Jane's birthday! In lieu of the usual wake-up song, we decided to sing Jane "Happy Brithday". At 0600, we sound less like a chorus of angels, and more like a chorus of frogs. The riders got together and bought Jane a birthday card, filled with very kind comments.

My birthday promise to Jane was to ride the whole day with her. We spent the day riding together to Newcomerstown, OH, and ended up being the first group of riders to arrive.

Our host, Joy Snyder, seemed to be very excited to have us, and very used to dealing with large groups. There were signs all over the host location telling us where to sleep, to eat, to store our bicycles, and so on.

We had the good fortune to be in a parade! As part of the Cy Young Days festival, we got to march in the parade. I was not there myself, but I hear it went very well.


Day Seventeen: Country Road, Take Me Home to Steubenville

At the beginning of the day off, we did a full dump of the van and trailer, just for good measure. Well, this morning, everything had to go right back in the van and trailer, so it took us longer to get on the road.

Armed with strong legs and a GPS, I tackled today's heavily urban route out of Pittsburgh. We took the West End bridge to Carson Street, then hopped on the Steubenville Pike for most of the way in to town. There were a number of tricky turns, so I'm glad I had my GPS. I called back to the van and chalked to notify the other riders of the trickiest turns.

The GPS did not manage to take me across the Fort Steuben Bridge, which managed to work well for the riders. Instead, I followed the Interstate-like Route 2 to the Market St Bridge, which was much less pleasant.

I arrived at 1110, about two hours ahead of the next group. Our hosts treated me to an excellent lunch.

We spent the afternoon doing a "complement train" team building activity, where we all gave each other positive remarks. Between this, and a presentation, everyone is in high spirits.

It is unbelievably humid here.


Day Sixteen: Day Off in Pittsburgh

Today, we had a non-riding, non-build day in the city of Pittsburgh. Our reward for some hairy riding into the city was an entire day to ourselves.

Jane and I spent most of the morning and early afternoon hours exploring Pittsburgh's South Side. We took a ride on on Monongahela incline car, and walked to the REI. We stopped by Ted's Excellent bicycle Shop. Ted, a professional mechanic most recently from California, recently moved to Pittsburgh with his new wife. He was married at the age of 42! There is hope for everyone!

Later in the evening, Jared Bieniek of P2S '06 paid us a visit.


Day Fifteen: Next Stop, Pittsburgh

We woke up at 0600 today, affording more precious sleep. The leaders made a deal with the riders this morning: if you pre-pack the night before, and are able to be on the road by 0730, we'll let you sleep in. The riders obliged, and with the help of a fantastic brakfast courtesy of the YWCA, we were able to pack, dress, eat, and have a motivating meeting very quickly.

As I was rolling out this morning, I had the idea of doing a nonstop ride to Pittsburgh. I left town with a long train of people, but as the group slowed on the first climb of the day, I didn't slow. As I blasted off the front, Lindsay called out, "I guess we'll see you in Pittsburgh." She was correct.

I had one of the best rides I've had in a while. With my GPS, I was able to not get lost, and chalk tricky turns for other riders. With the exception of a couple of traffic lights, chalking, some route calls to the van driver, and a flat tire at mile 65, I had a nonstop ride. I was able to manage my fueling and hydration almost perfectly. I didn't have to pee, but I wasn't dehydrated. I got into town at 1240.

The group was excited for dinner, and the day off. I'm ready for bed.


Day Fourteen: Driving the Van to Johnstown

We had a lovely stay in Johnstown at the YWCA. The facility is an old Victorian mansion, just this beautiful house with hardwood floors and wood paneling. Dinner and breakfast were superb, we had some media coverage, and we all had an excellent time. Our town hall meeting was productive, and conducted in a civilized and positive manner.

It was a difficult day for the riders, with about 5700 feet of climbing over 80 miles (according to Lenny's GPS data). I'm sad that I did not get to climb or descend the numerous 14% grades and switchbacks of the day - it looked like fun riding.

I'm disappointed with the number of people who were in the van today. We're too lax with allowing riders to ride in the van. The only way to improve is to ride.


Day Thirteen: State College Express

The day started with an 0500 wakeup, our earliest yet. The cafeteria/auditorium in the Berwick Area Middle School has no outside windows, so it looks the same at all hours of the day. We couldn't tell that it was still dark outside.

Breakfast this morning was provided by Claudia and Eric, as well as Front Street Bagels in Berwick. We're getting spoiled, with these on the house restaurant breakfasts! I had way too much food in the morning, which enabled me to be properly fueled for once.

I decided to push hard today with Lenny. We were holding about 22-23 MPH on the flats. He did a great job keeping up.

Today was our first "century" ride. We had a 95-mile ride from Berwick to State College, but some people chose to ride the additional five miles to get to 100. I was sufficiently pleased with my riding today, that I didn't see this as necessary. I ended up logging just over 99 miles, with a trip into town after arrival.

Lenny and I skipped major lunch stops, instead opting for smaller, lighter meals. I mainly consumed Clif bars, Clif shot blocks, and Gatorade on the road.

We got into town at around 1430. We spent time with Clay, our host and former head of Penn State Cycling, and to head into town and get the best sticky buns I've ever had. I also got to talk shop with Justin at Freeze Thaw Cycles. Much fun. I even got to call Mike Short, for the first time in too long!

Riders were treated to showers at the YMCA and an excellent vegetarian dinner upon arrival.


Day Twelve: Berwick with Jane

Today, we woke in Mount Pocono for the trek to Berwick. We've been looking forward to the Berwick overnight, since Jane's aunt and uncle, Claudia and Eric, have done so much to host us. After an 0530 wakeup, we went to Bailey's steak house just down Route 611, where Rebecca Sarajian was so gracious as to host our entire group for breakfast, on the house!

The ride to Berwick was, for the most part, beautiful. We hit some rain on the way out. Much to our dismay, we discovered that Woodland Drive did not, in fact, cross the Interstate as Topo lead us to believe.

I rode with a few people into lunch, and then headed into town with Jane. We drafted each other on the flats, and I waited for her on the hills. I was very glad, as I am every day, to have my GPS, which helps prevent me from getting lost.

On the way into town, we met a photographer. We made it into the newspaper! (See below.)

Jane and I spent the afternoon at Eric and Claudia's house. It's a beautiful log house, and it's much more impressive in the summer than at Thanksgiving. I wish I could have spent more time there, just to relax.

We had dinner at the Reliance Fire Hall. Woltech, Inc., Eric's company, provided 6' subs for dinner, while Claudia provided regular and raw milk. A couple of reporters from a Scranton news station came by, and interviewed a number of us. Eric managed to record the show, and I hope the see the video in the future. After dinner, the firefighters let us explore the fire trucks while waiting for the van. What impressive pieces of engineering!

I gave a clinic on derailleur adjustment to about 10 riders. It was well received, but lacking in hands-on work.


Day Eleven: Climbing Mount Pocono. Thrice.

I took a trip 30 years back in time this morning. I had to fuel the van, so, taking advantage of our location, I drove to New Jersey. Gas was $3.95 a gallon there, and this was not a well kept secret. Along the way to New Jersey, we passed a gas station that had very recently closed (within the past week, with handwritten signs telling potential patrons "sorry, no gas"). Just across the state line, we found six gas stations, each with about 10 pumps, with each pump having about 4 vehicles in line. Apparently, everyone pulls off the Interstate there to get gas. We waited 15 minutes in line to fill!

Our lead riders picked an apt location for lunch. The local Subway restaurant let us each have a 6" sandwich. I killed time at lunch doing bike repairs and bike fittings. Allie's front shifter stopped working; a shop replaced it, and all is well now.

We're staying with the Mount Pocono United Methodist Church. At the last moment, Rebecca, one of the parishioners, got us food from our restaurant! We all appreciated this greatly.

When I got to the church, I decided that I needed some exercise. There is a 1200 foot climb to Mount Pocono, and after driving, I changed, and climbed it twice in two hours. Apparently, Kyle chalked on the road: "You are a badass..." and "...Jose drove" at the top of the climb, much to everyone's amusement. I put them in their place by doing the climb twice, faster than any of them did.

Off to Berwick! I just hope the rain stays far away.



Day Ten: The Slow Road to Port Jervis

Sweep is a necessary evil, and once again, I found myself trudging along at 12 MPH, helping riders who needed our help. Ideally, we'd be this one fast, injury-free group that rode along a perfect, straight, car-free road with no confusing intersections.

The sun came out several times today. I got to ride with Jane for a while on some nice, empty roads. I didn't get any flats, and my bicycle is performing like a champion.ething new every day.

I've put on 12 lbs, according to the scale in the dining room at the Drew United Methodist Church here in Port Jervis, NY. I'm not riding as hard as I usually do, nor am I eating well.

I need more sleep. I'm going to try to go to bed earlier, and push back on my repair load.


Day Nine: Build in Newburgh, NY

We woke at 0630 to head to Newburgh, NY. We set out to help the very active Habitat chapter located there. Newburgh Habitat's quest is to provide housing for the 1800 eligible families in the city. We helped them move bricks and furniture. These may seem like fairly menial tasks, but they do help in the ultimate goal of building more houses.

Two alums visited us at the build site: Liz Smietana NC2SD'07 and Eric Siegel P2S'07. Apparently, my reputation precedes me.

Dave Miller quietly slipped off this morning, after the first van shuttle to the build site. A few people mentioned that they were sad to not have said proper goodbyes. We'll all miss Dave, especially me.

We had our first mail pickup today in Poughkeepesie, NY. The group is happier for the influx of letters and cookies.

We had an affordable housing meeting tonight, where we discussed some of the basic FAQs of Habitat for Humanity and other housing programs. I missed much of the meeting, as I was working on people's bicycles. Derailleurs and brakes are all going haywire after a break-in period and a few days of wet, hilly riding. I wish I weren't the only person doing this work.


Good News! (kinda sorta)


So, it looks like I'll be able to upgrade my PowerTap SL 2.4 to work with my Edge 705, eventually, for a price. Better late than never.

Day Eight: Poughkeepsie Express

It took me longer than usual to pack this morning, having lost my Camelbak. I called Ordinary Cycles later in the afternoon, and found that I left the Camelbak there. Overnight mail will bring it to Poughkeepsie tomorrow.

I left with Dave, Lenny, and Jane. I used my GPS to help win the state line sprint at the New York state line, attacking from the back with about 300 meters to go. After a few photo ops, Dave and I continued onward. We rode down a 15% descent on a dirt road. After that, I decided to route us around the next gravel road we encountered. This added a little bit of mileage to our journey.

Upon arriving at Hudson, NY at mile 35, Dave and I decided that we were better off grabbing a flying lunch down the road, than stopping and waiting for the trailer. We took off, down a pretty congested Route 9G, working together and holding about 24 MPH on the flats. We arrived at our host location around 2:15pm, well before the van or the next group. We managed to avoid the rain that made the day so difficult for those who arrived after us.

My mother came to visit our group today. She took the train from Brooklyn, just to spend a few hours with the group. We talked some, and socialized with the rest of the riders. She said a few kind words to the group just after dinner, which people received well after the hard day of riding.


Day Seven: Pittsfield, MA

Day Seven of our journey was a day of highs and lows. I mean that both metaphorically, as I'll explain shortly, and literally, as we gained and lost over 4000 feet of elevation over the course of the day.

Electronic cue sheets are working amazingly well on this trip. It is unbelievably useful to have an accurate map with active location right there on the bicycle, helping me along as I go. I'm never lost, and I know where all of the turns are!

The day's riding was great fun. We hit a 17% grade, which Dave and I climbed twice, just to stir the pot. We saw some goats on the side of the road. We got to lunch so early, that we had to wait over 45 minutes for the van. The general store had a non-public restroom, for fear of overflowing the septic tank.

After arriving in Pittsfield, we visited Ordinary Cycle. I needed some grease for my Speedplay pedals. The shop had all sorts of old timey stuff, like Spokey spoke wrenches (I bought two), an extensive selection of tubular tires, Mavic GEL 280 rims, a duplicate of the bicycle I rode down the Pacific Coast Highway. The proprietor looked like something of a Glenn Swan clone, so we asked him if he knew Glenn and, sure enough, they were old buddies. Awesome.

We saw Charlie in Pittsfield! Dr. Charles LaGoy, as he is now known, was my big brother through a Big Brothers program in Brooklyn from 1996 to 1999. Some twelve years later after we first met, Charlie, his wife Melissa, and children Hannah and Finn, are residents of Pittsfield. Charlie just finished medical school. Jane finally got to meet Charlie, which was great! Charlie came with us to dinner and regaled us with stories of all sorts of things. I'm amazed by how much I can still learn from Charlie.

I left my fork at dinner. Lenny brought it back for me. Thank you, Lenny.


Day Six: Amherst bike making all local stops

Bike & Build trips feature a pair of "sweep riders" every day. Sweep is responsible for making sure that everyone gets to the host location without incident. Sweep carries a toolkit and a spare tire, and stays with everyone they catch. Sweep is always the last group of riders to arrive.

Today, I rode sweep with Amol, who was a good sport about riding in the back of the group.

The utility of riding sweep is clear. That doesn't make it fun (for me).

Though I didn't really notice it, today's 54-mile ride featured 4,000 feet of climbing and gave most riders a lot of trouble. This is the meat and gravy of the northeast, the part of the trip where people are really getting up to speed and learning how to ride and what they are capable of doing.

Once we eventually arrived, Amol and I took showers, and I refueled. We had dinner with Tracy Hecklet SUS '05, and Chris Burns. At dinner, I told some riders about my teen years, and how I got into bicycles and computers. I did my first century when I was 14.

I'm looking forward to seeing Charlie, my former Big Brother, tomorrow in Pittsfield. Hopefully, my mother will come visit our group in Poughkeepsie.


Day Five: A Van's Eye View of Fitchburg

Today, as the riders set out on their second riding day, I donned civilian clothing and prepared to drive the van. One of the responsibilities (sacrifices, if you ask me) of being a trip leader is to drive the trip van every fourth day. Driving the van carries a fairly substantial workload:
  • Keep a 15-passenger van with a fully loaded trailer on the road, between the ditches, even if the road is not particularly friendly to motor traffic.
  • Obey all laws, including stop signs and speed limits, which are perpetually difficult to see and arbitrarily placed.
  • Follow the route, which can be complicated and feature frequent turns onto unmarked roads.
  • Be able to field questions from riders who get lost and need routing assistance.
  • Provide gear and support for any riders with mechanical or health issues.
  • Run errands for the trip as necessary.
  • Keep the van fueled.
  • Stay calm, positive, and hydrated through the entire process.
Today's van driving involved a fairly heavy dose of all of the above. A number of riders got lost along the 42 mile route, and between shuttling Kristian to the hospital and making a quick rendez-vous with the Northern van, I was busy. I was given a cookie upon arrival - thanks, Jess! - and passed out once I got here.

We're staying with the First Parish Church of Unitarian Universalists here in Fitchburg, and I can't overstate how welcoming their community has been. A gentelman by the name of Neil Anderson, a former professor at Penn State, provided excellent conversation. Neil rode up on a Trek 520, and does all sorts of interesting things here in Fitchburg.

I'm looking forward to riding tomorrow.


Day Four: Build Day in Lawrence, MA

Team B2SB spent today at a build site in Lawrence, MA. Due to an unfortunate turn of luck, three nearly completed Habitat homes were lost to a fire early this year, so the Merrimack Valley Habitat for Humanity has its work cut out, building homes for these folks. We spent eight hours today on site. I assisted with bringing boards to the second floor of a home under construction. In one day, we raised most of a roof, raised two walls, installed a chain link fence, and installed scaffolding. It's really neat to see what 31 people can do in just a few hours.

Later this evening, we had another fantastic dinner at the Webber residence. We all went around saying what we thought of the trip.

I'm in the van for tomorrow's 42 mile ride to Fitchburg. I'm going to try riding the Fitchburg race course tomorrow with Dave, just to get some riding in. After Intercity, I've done little riding, and I'm definitely losing fitness.


Day Three: Andover, here we come!

Today, we officially began our transcontinental journey. We dipped our tires in the Atlantic Ocean at Revere beach, then - slowly and carefully - navigated the Boston suburbs to Andover.

We had dinner with the Webbers here in Andover, in memory of Chris Webber. The Webbers are wonderful hosts, and it was my pleasure to introduce Jane to them this evening. I learned this morning that they do, in fact, read this blog, so I'll keep that in mind when I post here.

For the first time in about a year, I was able to relax today. People were taking care of themselves, and safely having fun. I told them how I intend to "sire" children, not "father" them, and how my offspring will need to either outsmart or outsprint me. I told them about Chris Webber, and about P2S'06. I guessed that amazing things would happen if I handed Kyle Rudzinski a soccer ball, and I was correct. Association football!


Day Two: Shakedown Ride

Things are going well. I hope people feel comfortable coming to me with their questions. I'll delegate or dodge questions to keep my workload manageable, but we should all help each other.

Today's drills went shakily. Almost all of the riders need to improve their riding skills, and need to relax on their bikes. I had my doubts going into the shakedown ride, but nobody died! My group of riders was having do much fun, we went around Deer Island twice. We signalled for things like "hole" and "car", as well as "plane" since we rode under the Logan Airport approach path.

We gave a presentation this evening to four churchgoers, who really loved what we were doing. After dinner, a bunch of us took a field trip to Boston on the Blue Line, and got cannolis at Bova's. Dave Miller convinved them to give us bread, cold cuts, and cookies - hooray!


Day One: Orientation, Revere, MA

Today was officially the first day of our cross country adventure. The leader team finally got to ride bikes today, going for a check of the shakedown ride. After the short 15 mile ride, we came back to St. Anthony's of Padua church in Revere to finish some pre-arrival tasks.

The riders began to arrive at 1pm, many by car, many by public transit. The other leaders helped with indoor check in while I worked on bicycles. After my experience last year, I decided it would be a good idea to rebuild and check everyone's bicycles, including a test ride. I spent most of the afternoon working on people's bikes, and had more fun than I have in a while.

We went through our presentations today. These were the usual talks on policy, chore groups, the Bike & Build day, and whatnot. The group's level of knowledge and desire to learn is high.

We're off to a strong start. Let's see how things go tomorrow. I'm optimistic.


Ride Report: Intercity Express

WARNING: Since I know that cyclists of all experience levels read this page, I have to say this here. The Intercity ride is not for everyone. I am an experienced cyclist with about 50,000 miles on my legs, including extensive long distance, hot weather, and nighttime riding experience. If you try some of the things I mention below, you could be in a tough place. I'm not liable for your actions.

On June 7, 2008, I finally managed to ride from New York, NY to Boston, MA in one go. This is something that I've wanted to do for five years, and have been trying to complete this without success for three years. This is how I did it.

Intercity is not just a double century. There is no cue sheet, no support van, no prearranged rest stops, no trip marshals, no infrastructure. There are two guys, two bicycles, countless hours, and the road.

There was a huge amount of preparation involved in this ride. I spent countless hours thinking about a route, equipment selection, fueling, and pacing. Many of my previous articles detail these hours. I had to figure out the best time of day to leave, the best time of year to do the ride (it's not November), and how to train for a 220 mile ride. My route optimized distance, sacrificing flatness, in the interests of being done sooner. I chose the most aerodynamic equipment possible that would allow me to run a largely conventional road bike in all conditions with maximal benefit for my weight and riding style. I chose to fuel on a combination of Gatorade, Clif bars and Perpetuem, to keep the protein levels high, and supplement this with table salt, to keep the electrolytes high (should have used sea salt). I always had to stay overhydrated, which meant having to pee all the time. I brought a friend to make sure I did this. Finally, I chose an 0430 departure from the Upper West Side, so that we were on the most trafficked portions of the route the earliest, and would ride through the least safe areas of the route in broad daylight.

The week leading to the ride was insanely hectic for me. I was finishing up some projects at work, and as a result, staying awake for more hours than I would have liked. I was not riding, and not eating or hydrating the way I was used to. The stress levels were high. If I do this again, I'd like to have an easier week beforehand. I still incorporated a taper, with a hard 78 mile ride the weekend before.

So, at 0400, Dave Miller and I woke from a restless sleep and began the preparations. I left with four bottles full of double-strength Perpetuem and quadruple-strength Gatorade, a Camelbak with three liters of water, eight additional helpings of Perpetuem, and twelve Clif bars, as well as a handful of salt packets. Dave, weighing two-thirds of what I do, did not have a Camelbak, and had slightly less fuel on hand. After a quick breakfast of yoghurt and bagels, we departed at 0445.

Within 0.69 miles of departure, I got a flat tire on Central Park West at 78th Street. Someone had broken a glass bottle there only a couple of hours prior. The flat was New York's way of saying how much it hates cyclists. I'm looking forward to not returning for some time. After some unpleasant riding on First Avenue, the Willis Avenue Bridge, and the Bronx, we crossed the city limit at about 0600.

The riding conditions were pleasant. Sunrise was at about 0530, with temperatures in the 60-65 F range and no direct sun (cloudy). We were doing well to fuel, eating a Clif bar and having a serving of Perpetuem (total 500 calories) about once an hour. We rode comfortably through New Rochelle, Mamaroneck, Rye (where Dave got a flat), Port Chester, and Stamford.

The riding began to get difficult after we left Stamford. We were still feeling just fine, but the road conditions were less than ideal. The road was under construction, resulting in a bumpy ride for about 10 miles. Kristian, a Bike & Build director and a Darien native, told me after the fact that the reason for the construction was the installation of new electrical and fiber optic wiring under the road. I'm glad that Connecticut is getting a modern infrastructure, but wish that they had waited until after our ride! I joked that the state of Connecticut knew that we were coming.

Through Connecticut, we took frequent stops, about once an hour. When we stopped, we hydrated, used the restroom, filled our water bottles, and had a salt packet, if needed. (Prior to the trip, I grabbed a handful of salt packets from McDonald's. These were a life saver.)

The ride through Bridgeport and New Haven was, as always, unpleasant. I'm just glad that we were there during the middle of the day, since poor roads and unsafe neighborhoods make a dangerous combination at night. It was in New Haven that we had really the only incident of our trip: while crossing railroad tracks at grade, we both hit a nasty pothole that sent our rear mounted water bottles flying. I stopped abruptly, was unable to unclip my left foot, and fell. This is a clear sign that I need to replace my Speedplay Zero cleats, after roughly 6,000 miles of use. I lubricated them, and this was not an issue again, but it's been happening too often.

The ride becomes substantially more beautiful, and less eventful, after leaving New Haven. We stopped for strawberries at the usual spot on Route 17, since it was the middle fo strawberry season. We continued along green, empty, friendly roads north to Middletown, where we stopped for some time to cool off and refill. At Javapalooza, my favorite stopping point in Middletown, we re-assessed the situation. It was about 13:00. We had cycled a century. It was above 95 degrees and humid. We had 120 miles of hilly riding ahead of us. We went for it.

As I predicted, the riding on Route 66 was the hardest riding of the entire trip. We encountered a number of long 6% grades, and considering the heat, the lack of shade, our creeping dehydration, and the slow shutdown of our digestive systems on account of all of it, we were in no condition to attack these climbs. We rode them dutifully, stopping just outside of Willimantic (both before and after) for more rehydration.

Once we turned onto Routes 6, 198, and 197, conditions improved somewhat, as shade was more common. Route 198 is an awesome 12-mile slight downhill going in the Boston to New York direction, which meant that we had a really humiliating "false flat" climb for many, many miles. These miles just ticked away: Dave and I had conversations about any old thing, and started to get quiet. We had been on the road for a long time. This section of the ride was not as event-filled as the first 80 miles of urban riding, so the miles just tended to blend into each other more.

We stopped at a really strange diner run by a Greek family in Wilbur, MA, around 20:00. At this point, Jane confirmed that we were 55 miles away from Boston. I wanted breakfast food, but this place did not serve pancakes in the evening, so Dave and I each ordered a plate of pasta. The portions were absurd; I'm fairly certain we each got our own box of pasta. We were genuinely weary after 165 miles of riding in some of the hottest and most humid conditions that I've ever encountered. I had been hydrating the entire way through, and peeing clear for the entire trip, but since my body can't process as much water as I was losing, the effect was a net negative. The heat also interfered with my digestion. I was able to force about five bites of that huge plate of pasta, sending much of it to waste. The waitress at the restaurant was pretty confused, and was constantly asking us if we needed this or that. Really, we just wanted to be left alone, and recuperate from the heat a bit. We decided to continue, anticipating better riding conditions as it got later and darker, and about 3-4 hours of riding into Boston.

It was at this point that Dave telephoned a friend of his who lives close enough to the area to offer a ride. What Dave failed to communicate was that this friend was driving to meet us. 20 miles outside of Wilbur, Dave makes us pull over for an unknown reason, and a white car with two roof racks on top pulls up. The driver, a man who is to me a stranger, begins to tell us what a "bad idea" this is, how "dangerous" it is, and how "hilly" and "far" it is from Boston. I was beyond frustrated here - Dave did not tell me that the friend was driving down, and now here we were, stopped on the side of the road, while some guy who didn't know what he was talking about was trying to convince me, a seasoned veteran of the Intercity route at all hours, to get into his car. This is where Dave cracked: he had been riding with a nearly-dead headlight and sunglasses at night, and as a result, was almost unable to see. After private discussion, we continued, then Dave cracked again. He called his friend and got a ride.

I had to make a serious judgement call, at a car dealership in Douglas, MA, 35 miles and 2 hours from Boston. Did I get into this stranger's car, abandoning my dream of completing this ride once and for all? Did I continue the ride, heading into dark forest road conditions on a Saturday night alone and abandoning my friend? I was furious with Dave for forcing me to make this choice. I felt like our pact was broken, and he just didn't want to do this anymore. I called Jane, who echoed my own thoughts: that it was probably safer overall to take the ride, but I would hate myself forever if I did. Mike called too, and echoed the same concerns, with a little more experience of the route ahead (having done previous two-day Intercity runs).

In the end, I made the irrational call: I took Dave's lights and fuel, replaced the batteries in his lights so that they were useful, and sent him on his way. Dave thought I was crazy, and I could tell that his friend was less than pleased with me, but I was on a mission.

The next 20 miles were some of the scariest riding I've ever done. Route 16 gets pitch black at night, and the road conditions aren't ideal. To boot, it was foggy. My lighting, two Cateye headlamps and two blinking rear taillights, ensured the ability to see and be seen on the road, but it was still scary. I got a flat, and fixed it only by the light of my headlamp - using only my bare hands and in record time, no less.

At roughly 23:00, I gave Jane a call. I was in Wellesley. I was 13 very familiar and well lit miles away from Boston, safe and in good condition. The cooler weather helmed me rehydrate and recuperate, and surprisingly, I was feeling amazing. My face lit up when I saw that every-so-familiar turn onto Route 135.

So, at five minutes past nidnight, I time trialled across the Mass Ave bridge, rode past MIT, hopped onto the sidewalk just south of WILG, and met my beautiful girlfriend on the sidewalk. I felt like I had just ridden from my old dorm, not from New York.

I have finally finished this ride that I first envisioned as a high school senior and first attempted as a college sophomore. In the process, I have learned more about myself than I anticipated. I think I have finally earned the ultimate bragging rights of an ultramarathon or Ironman athlete - not quite PBP or the RAAM, but I'm in at the same level as those guys.

The key to completing this ride was hydration and nutrition. Before the ride, I ate a bagel and some yoghurt. On the road, I has ten Clif bars (2500), ten servings of Perpetuem (2500), about eight servings of Gatorade (700), a banana (100), and five bites of pasta (100). Dave's Powertap estimate was 4000 calories, so, accounting for my larger size and additional mileage, I estimate burning 7000 calories for the ride. Considering the usual metabolic processes as well, and the decreased efficiency from hot weather riding, I was probably about 3500 calories in deficit. It took me about 14 hours to regain my appetite, but I've made up for that in the following days.

I could not have completed this silliness without the help of my good friend, Dave Miller. He was largely the reason this was possible. Our countless hours of trash talk and equipment discussion helped get everything together, and helped solidify the ride in our heads. On the road, he was a great riding companion. We shared stories, drafted each other, and made certain that we were eating and hydrating properly. Without him, I probably would have abandoned on account of poor fueling. Yes, he did quit early, but I think he made the right call: he was having trouble seeing, and was not familiar with the route. To Dave: Thank You.

Jane was right. I would have hated myself if I had given up. I've never been happier.


Preliminary Ride Report: Intercity Express

I cycled from New York, NY to Boston, MA today with my good friend Dave Miller.

By the numbers:
Departure 0445
Arrival 0005
Distance 221.30 mi
Riding time 14h 25m 24s.
Average speed 15.3 MPH
19h20m on the road.

Overall: a hard, hard ride that finally puts this silliness to rest. More later. Thank you and goodnight.


Intercity Run Seven: Saturday, June 7, 2008

Intercity Run 7 is scheduled for tomorrow morning. A few notes:

* The basic route is unchanged. We take these roads in the following order: First Ave, US 1, CT 17, CT 66, US 6, CT 198, CT 197, MA 16.
* We follow a new route through The Bronx. From Willis Avenue (1st Ave bridge), take a RIGHT on E 148 St, a LEFT on St Anne Ave, a SLIGHT RIGHT onto Boston Road, a SLIGHT RIGHT onto East Tremont Ave, a SLIGHT LEFT onto Silver St, STRAIGHT onto Eastchester Road, and finally a RIGHT onto Boston Road/US-1.
* We follow a new route through Bridgeport. From US 1, continue STRAIGHT onto Post Rd, STRAIGHT onto Fairfield Ave, SLIGHT RIGHT onto State St, LEFT onto Main St, RIGHT onto Stratford Ave (be careful to stay on Stratford Ave), and STRAIGHT onto Ferry Rd which becomes US-1.
* We follow a new route through New Haven. From US-1/Columbus Ave, turn LEFT onto Church St, RIGHT onto Elm St / Grand Ave, LEFT onto Quinnipac Ave, and STRAIGHT onto CT-17.
* Since our endpoint of Mike's place is near Harvard Square, we will forego Beacon St and follow MA-16 into Harvard Square.

Weather is a serious concern on this run. Temperatures will be at record levels, climbing into the 90s with high humidity through the afternoon and early evening hours, in the middle of some of our most difficult climbing without tree cover. To this end, we are taking the following measures to battle the weather:

* We will leave as early as is reasonable, and perhaps slightly earlier, to beat the worst of the heat.
* We will have Gatorade in addition to Perpetuem, for electrolytes and easy sugars.
* Between the two of us, we will have eight bottles of water, Perpetuem, and Gatorade, and I'll have a three liter Camelbak of water.
* We will begin hydrating early (now, really), and continue to hydrate through the ride.
* We will top off all bottles whenever possible.
* We will bring and use ample sunscreen.
* We will take rest stops as necessary in consideration of the weather.

Mike and Jane will have up to date position information, in case you need it for some reason.

This is it.

So, today begins the rest of the summer for me. Two days ago, we got the license plates for the trip van. Yesterday, I cut my hair shorter than I ever have before. Today is my last day at work, and my last day in Brooklyn for some time. Tomorrow, I will ride to Boston in one day, culminating three years of preparation. On Sunday evening, we'll begin to prepare for the arrival of the Bike & Build riders on Wednesday. Then, I'll spend ten weeks cycling west before spending another week driving east. After the summer, I'll resume studies at MIT, hopefully completing a Master's degree within a year.

I'm most concerned about doing that Intercity ride to Boston. I've been "tapering" this week, meaning I haven't done any riding since Sunday. The last ride I did, the aforementioned ice cream ride, saw me riding at an average speed of 15 MPH with an average heart rate of 89 BPM. I'm confident that my cardiovascular system can do this. I just don't know if I'll be comfortable on my bicycle for 18-20 hours of riding, or if Dave will last that long. I hope this works.

I'm concerned about this Bike & Build trip. I'm not worried about myself, as I know what to expect. I'm worried about everyone else. I already know of two riders who have sustained injuries, and the trip has yet to begin. I'm wary of people's abilities to ride their bicycles, as always. I'm also worried about finding places to stay in Barstow and Santa Paula, CA, about that unconfirmed Bloomington mail drop, and about making sure nothing else falls through. It seems some other trips on the road now are already up to their ears in issues. My hope is that strong, competent leadership will help avoid many issues, and lead to a safe and pleasant summer. I just hope that the leadership will indeed have strength and competence. I want the riders to help us help them, by taking responsibility, showing maturity and flexibility, and not complaining. Jane has done an excellent job of doing exactly this, better than me in fact, and I hope other riders follow her excellent example.

My goals for this summer are to make sure everyone completes the trip without injury, to get enough rest, and to stay in a good mood. Riding unbelievably fast is a given.


Electronic Cue Sheets: Elegant Routing on the Garmin Edge 705

For the difficulty of the previous posting, the actual procedure is beautifully simple, assuming you know how to use DeLorme Topo USA, or another routing program that can export routes to GPX. These directions work with DeLorme Topo USA 7.0 and the Garmin Edge 705, but you can modify them as needed.
  1. Create your route in Topo. Make sure to include about twice as many vias as you need, to make sure the route is not ambiguous, but don't use over 48 of them! (48 vias, plus start and finish, is 50 waypoints, a usual limitation.)
  2. In Topo, go to the Route tab, make sure your route is selected, and select File > Export... Save your route as a GPX file to the device's route folder. For the Edge 705, this is (device)/Garmin/GPX. The route should be small - if it's larger than about 40K, you did something wrong.
  3. Safely remove your GPS from the computer.

Your GPS device will need good maps to do the actual routing. I recommend Garmin's CityNavigator NT or, if you can legally obtain them, unlocked Garmin MetroGuide maps.

That's all there is to it. The route is now on your GPS device, ready to be navigated. If you have the Edge 705, you can even send the route to other devices using the ANT file transfer tool on the device.

You'll get turn by turn directions, and will never need paper cue sheets again.

Electronic Cue Sheets: Using Onboard Routing

In my previous blog posting about GPS navigation on the bicycle, I discussed how to export a route in Topo USA to a path that you could follow using a Garmin Edge cycling GPS device. In this article, I will discuss the foundations for an alternate method of routing that allows for smaller files and better navigation, but not without caveats. I'll include a sample procedure for doing so in a later article.

Before proceeding further, it is important to understand the difference between a number of terms used in GPS discourse. This information is key to making routing work properly.

Waypoint - think of this as a landmark. At the very least, a waypoint is a named latitude/longitude pair. Waypoints may have other information associated with them, such as elevation, an icon, and useful metadata. If you've ever done geocaching, your goal there is to find a waypoint. Semantically, a waypoint is a fixed point in space.

Trackpoint - not my favorite mouse pointer technology, but similar to a waypoint. A trackpoint is a location, much like a waypoint, but with a timestamp associated with it. If a waypoint is a fixed location (like a mountain), a trackpoint is a record of where you were at a particular time. This may not sound much different than a waypoint, but the timestamp distinction is key. Trackpoints may also have metadata associated with them; speed, heart rate, cadence, and power are examples.

Route - an ordered collection of waypoints, nothing more and nothing less. For the purposes of GPS file formats, a route has a start point, an end point, and a number of via or stop points in between. Since these are just waypoints, the route knows what order these are in. An example: from Times Square, go to the Central Park Zoo, then to Shea Stadium. The three landmarks would be the waypoints, collected and ordered into a route. A route typically describes a journey you have not yet taken.

It is useful to think about how a piece of hardware or software treats a route file. Basically, the application reading the route will "connect the dots" using whatever algorithm it can. The simplest way to do this is to literally draw a straight line from one waypoint to the next, and call this your route. (This is what Google Earth and the Garmin Edge 305 do.) Now, if your application can connect points more intelligently, perhaps by routing you along a network of roads it knows about, it will do so, according to whatever preferences you gave the application. (Delorme Topo USA and the Garmin Edge 705 both handle routes this way).

Track - a collection of track points, ordered by their time stamps. If you were to walk around, and record a trackpoint every, say, 5 seconds, the collection of these would be a track. You could use this to analyze and replay your trip. A track typically describes a completed journey.

OK, got it? If not, reread the previous five paragraphs.

If you understand the distinctions I mentioned above, you'll realize that my previous electronic cue sheet procedure, of making a route, exporting it, and converting it, was dealing with a track. The procedure simulated the entire route, inch for inch, and had you follow it. Since this is independent of a routing algorithm, something that the Edge 305 does not have, this is how you follow a ride on the 305. Note that Garmin advertises that you can record and re-do previous rides. By recording a ride, you create a track, which you can later follow. You can even race your previous ride, since you have full time data, and see an elevation profile, since you have full elevation data, from your previous ride.

Now, what if you happen to have a GPS device which offers a routing algorithm? Well, you can send the device a route, which is usually much smaller and simpler to handle than a track. The device will calculate a route for you, and give you turn by turn directions. This is how in-car GPS systems work. You can tell your routing algorithm to, say, avoid highways and back roads while routing you, if you want to follow routes on a bicycle. There is an art to getting a feel for different routing algorithms, and putting in enough via points in your route to make it unambiguous to different devices. That's part of designing a trip, and I'll talk about that later.

Ponder this, as my revised route creation procedure will make much more sense after this.


Intercity Preparation

At long last, I'm preparing for my one-day Intercity ride to Boston this Saturday. We're staying with Dave's friend, David Cohodes, at 74th St and Broadway in Manhattan. This trickiness on our part allows us to save a few miles at the start of the trip.

My bicycle is here, as is the gear that I'll need to do the ride. As of now, it looks like we'll have ideal riding conditions:

Friday Night (NYC): Partly cloudy, with a low around 71.
Saturday (Middletown): Mostly sunny, with a high near 88.
Saturday Night (Boston): Partly cloudy, with a low around 67.

The question is, can I do this? I've been "tapering" this week, which means I've been putting on weight and eating too much. I hope that I'm replenishing glycogen stores and not just getting fat.

The Joy of Really Fast Cycling

So, in counterpoint to my previous grumblings about going slow, I have to mention that going fast is really, really fun.

On the same ride this weekend, I took my TT bike out for a spin. My road bike was in New York, but my TT bike was in Boston following my move. If you'll recall, my TT bike is a Fuji Aloha CF2, which only differs from the CF1 in that it doesn't have carbon fiber handlebars.

Most of my riding on the Aloha to date has been long, steady rides in Prospect Park. I equip the bike with my HED disc rear wheel and my FP60 front wheel, don my pointy TT helmet, and blast around the park at 25 MPH for an hour. When I do this, I don't push the bike to anything close to its limits.

On the way back from my ride in Boston on Sunday, I was feeling energetic and I had a tailwind. I decided to motor out of traffic lights, flexing the handlebars - but not the frame! - in the process. I was blasting along at 33 MPH, passing cars, and just having a lot of fun.

I think that Fuji bikes in general are underappreciated. My Track Pro is a dutiful city bike, and my Aloha CF2 is super stiff, light, and as aerodynamic as a Cervelo P2C. I'm just sad that I can't ride it this summer.


The Challenge of Slow Cycling

This is going to be the most pompous reading article I've written, but at least it's based on fact.

I have difficulty riding slowly.

After over 4,000 training miles this year, and about 45,000 miles on my legs, my standard riding speed is about 20 MPH. Going 20, my heart rate hums along at a nice, steady, aerobic rate, and I get where I need to go without really killing myself. I still have plenty of aerobic capacity left for powering up a hill or out of a traffic light.

The standard Bike & Build riding speed is about 15-16 MPH. For many riders, this is a difficult pace, and many riders won't be capable of sustaining this pace for some time. For me, riding at 15-16 MPH takes conscious effort. I have to actively remember to stay in a lower gear and apply less pedal pressure. I have to be very careful to not take the lead in a group of riders, because if I do, I will fairly certainly disappear off the front without realizing it. I've spent ten years building the base that allows me to ride as efficiently as I do, and lot riding fast is, well, hard.

I went on a slow ride this weekend, and my heart rate was in the 90-100 BPM range. This is well below the 60% zone that most experts consider the minimum heart rate for "exercise".

I know, I know. Cry me a river. I'm just saying, much of Bike & Build will be a choice between getting exercise or being social.